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fic: Of ghosts who dwell here

Title: Of ghosts who dwell here
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: X-Men First Class
Pairing: Erik/Charles
Rating: R
Warnings: none
Wordcount: 1915
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Summary: It was a mistake to come back here, Charles thinks.
A/N: Part of the Patterns of Light series. Bits of this were written for two fan_flashworks challenges, Haunted and Stripes. Heartfelt thanks to [personal profile] kalypso for her excellent beta advice, and to ushobwri and #xmentales for encouragement. This one is for 2ndskin, because of Rehoboth.

It was a mistake to come back here, Charles thinks when he wakes dry-mouthed and gritty-eyed at four in the afternoon. Not just to Rehoboth Beach, but this hotel. It isn’t the same room he and Erik had, but it might as well be: the same cream paint and rose-patterned wallpaper, the same patchwork quilt and iron-framed bed, wooden chairs and washstand. Clearly imagination in decorating is not Theresa Pryde’s strong point.

On reflection, maybe it’s actually worse, being across the hall from the room they shared. As if the ghosts of that earlier trip might still be there on the other side of that locked door, kissing and clinging to each other as if they’d never let go. Waking up together and imagining all the other mornings they could have. Anything seemed possible then, in the heat and rush of new love.

Not a word he’d thought to use, but that’s what it was. Knowing this time he wanted much more than a quick fuck or a one-night stand.

He’d wanted Erik that way, of course: how could he not, meeting him for the first time in that smoky jazz club? Wanted this man so hard and fast, it took his breath away. The heat of Erik’s gaze made him dizzy, certain it wasn’t a question of if but when. He’d sat through the rest of the show in a haze, achingly hard, fighting the impulse to freeze the minds of everyone else in the club while he sucked Erik’s cock or bent him over the nearest table.

What felt like hours later, they’d stumbled into Erik’s apartment, barely managing to close the door behind them before falling on each other, fumbling with buttons and cloth, desperate for the feel of skin on skin. Bitten-off cries and half-smothered groans, the heat and salt of bodies locked and sliding together. Erik’s cock in his mouth, or against his hip, or pressed between them as Charles fucked him, Erik arching up to meet him thrust for thrust.

“I want to see you again,” Charles heard himself say as they lay still panting in each other’s arms. He never said that, no matter how good the sex was.

Erik kissed him so fiercely that he felt the sting and bloom of blood in it, and the sharp flare of his ability at the tang of metal.

“I’ve got a few days’ leave,” he said, sounding almost as stunned as Charles. “We could – go somewhere.”

And so they had come to Rehoboth Beach, and this hotel, and allowed themselves to fall in love.

Charles sighs, and wipes the back of his hand across his eyes. Impossible to recover those ghosts of another season; impossible not to want to. They thought they had all the time in the world. They knew nothing of what lay ahead: the summons from MacTaggert, and the crooked house in New Orleans where Charles would lie awake, cold and sick with dread, listening to Sebastian’s sleep-heavy breathing and willing him not to wake up.

It was a mistake to come back here, that’s certain. But now he’s here, he doesn’t want to go away.

The afternoon sun casts stripes of shadow through the blinds, falling across the floor and the bed. Charles thinks of waking in the motel room, only days ago but it feels like years, with the early morning sun coming through the blinds.

Waking with his mind full of confused images he didn’t recognize at first as Erik’s fantasies. Bare skin striped with light and warmth: at once felt and seen, experienced and imagined. Erik staring at his naked back, wanting to trace those patterns of light with his tongue. Imagining the taste of salt on Charles’s skin, the heat of him.

Charles felt the stare before he saw it, before he opened his eyes and saw Erik, fully clothed and sitting on the hard chair by the window, striped with sunlight and shadow. Erik’s face, intent and serious, gazing at him. Nothing to show the riot of images in his mind that had made Charles cry out on waking, a desire so strong that he could almost feel the shock of Erik’s tongue against his flesh in that intimate caress.

Joy and rage flared up together at the knowledge that Erik still wanted him. Wanted him in spite of thinking of Charles only as Shaw’s lover, as an assignment, a means to an end. Wanted him so much that it left no room for other emotions. Those had come later, like an echo of the emotions Charles had locked away in Erik’s mind, at his insistence.

He knows he shouldn’t be lying here thinking about all that, but he’s too exhausted to push the memories away: Erik’s scalding anger, his incredulous disgust when he found out why MacTaggert wanted to recruit Charles for the undercover mission.

“What does he have to do with Shaw?” Erik wouldn’t even look at Charles. Spoke to MacTaggert as if he wasn’t in the room.

“There was a party at his house last summer,” Charles said, his gut clenching at the recollection. “He made it clear he was – interested.”

How stupid he’d been, to think he could turn down Sebastian Shaw’s advances with impunity. He’d tried to get out of it gracefully, saying it wouldn’t be fair to his date for the party if he went off to have sex with the host, though in truth he hardly knew the man who’d brought him. He should have known it wouldn’t end there.

Charles stares at the bars of sunlight and shadow till the colours dance in front of his eyes, and tries to think of nothing.

Kitty’s sprawled on the front stoop, singing tunelessly, a transistor radio clutched to her ear: “Baby, I'm only society's child...”

Charles wants to say That’s terribly bad for your hearing, but there’s no point in becoming the enemy before he needs to. It’ll happen soon enough if he stays here.

She looks up and waves to him; he waves back.

“Are you going for a ride?” she asks hopefully.

Charles glances at Hank's motorbike. It’s tempting. Anything rather than stay here remembering and moping about Erik.

“Maybe later,” he says.

“Can I come?”

He sighs. “Not unless your mother has changed her mind, and I don’t suppose she has.”

She’s wondering whether to pretend Theresa has relented, but she knows there’s no point. He’d only check, and then she’d be in more trouble.

“You’re no fun,” she grumbles, kicking the balustrade.

“No,” he says bleakly, “I’m not.”

There’s a flash of remorse from her at that, but all she says is “I’m bored.”

“What is there to do around here?” Charles asks. He could use a distraction himself.

“Beach stuff,” she says dismissively. She can’t play beach sports by herself, she doesn’t have a dog to walk, and she can’t go in the ocean because –

Charles puts up his shields, embarrassed at trespassing into that particular private territory. He’d have thought she was too young to be menstruating already, but the mixture of anger and shame is unmistakable.

“Is there a library in town?”

She pulls a face. “There’s one over in Lewes, if you want. There’s a bookstore, too.”

Lewes is just a few miles away, Charles remembers. He and Erik had meant to explore the area, but it never happened: too wrapped up in their new affair and the constant craving for each other. Maybe he'll go there tomorrow.

“Any good movies showing?”

Kitty shakes her head. She's seen all the new ones weeks ago, and the only other movie place in town is playing boring old Humphrey Bogart films.

Maybe that’s what Charles needs to take his mind off things – a good old-fashioned mystery in black and white, where the hardboiled private investigator gets slugged and framed for murder and still manages to walk away with his pride and a glamorous dame on his arm. A story where the complications are all about simple things like money and greed and revenge…

Or maybe not, he thinks a couple of hours later as the closing credits roll for In A Lonely Place. It's a good film, but the Bogart character’s brooding jealousy and violence remind him too much of Erik, and Gloria Grahame's last line catches him under the heart.

I lived a few weeks while you loved me.

Yes. That’s how it was, for a few weeks – and then Erik left him. Not that Erik would admit he was the one who left. He’d blame Charles for that too, as if it was Charles’s fault Sebastian Shaw had pursued him, or that Moira MacTaggert had pushed him into Shaw’s grasp.

There’s anger here, he knows, but buried so deep that he can hardly touch it. His life as he knew it before Erik is gone, as surely as if he’d stayed to testify against Shaw. And with Shaw’s gang out to get him, his days are numbered even if he does manage to lie low and not be found by MacTaggert’s agents. One way or another, Charles Xavier no longer exists.

His eyes are dazzled with evening sunlight after the darkness of the cinema, and everything looks strange. The beachside pumps that were hooded back in the spring are busy now with kids in shorts or bathing suits, washing the sand off their feet. It's hard to believe he and Erik half-ran along this boardwalk, cursing the wind and unseasonable snow showers. Teeth chattering, they'd hurried back to the hotel to dive under the sheets, the bed piled high with comforters and blankets.

“Perfect weather for a trip to the ocean,” Charles had said, shaking between cold and laughter.

“Perfect weather for staying in bed,” Erik amended, hauling him close again. Charles wasn't going to argue with that.

All the summer businesses are open now, selling kites and water-wings, buckets and spades, beach balls, sandshoes, raffia mats. All the restaurants, too, not just the one lonely pizza place they'd eaten at in the spring. The amusement arcade is full of noisy teenagers playing the pinball machines or screeching over the automated fortune-teller's predictions.

Charles stops by the turbaned plastic figure in its glass case, half-tempted to get his own fortune told, though he doesn't believe it. What's the point anyway? He can't have the future he wanted, the life he'd hoped for with Erik. He said goodbye to that in the hours before dawn, shutting the door of Erik's apartment behind him.

Once MacTaggert had told Erik about his connection with Shaw, it was already too late, or so he'd assumed. But maybe it wasn't: maybe if he'd gone on saying no to MacTaggert he and Erik could still have been together.

He can't let himself think about that. It hurts too much.

Instead, he fishes in his pocket for a quarter, humming along under his breath to the arcade attendant's radio, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell singing Ain't No Mountain High Enough. It seems to be everywhere this summer.

The song cuts out abruptly in the middle of the last chorus, and the kids yell and groan.

“We interrupt this broadcast for a police message,” the smooth-voiced announcer says. “Two dangerous mutants have escaped from custody in the Washington DC area. Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost were last seen...”

Charles doesn't hear the rest of the announcement. There's a high shrill sound in his ears, and he's cold inside, shaking in the summer heat.



Title from Shirley Horn, This Hotel.

The song Kitty's singing along to is Janis Ian's Society's Child.

On the radio in the arcade: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell singing Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/183520.html with comment count unavailable comments.


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